What should I expect when conducting research at the University Archives?
Here are six easy steps to follow to research archival and manuscript collections:
- Select a topic - person, place, or event. Your research may have a general theme but it is easiest to research specific people, places, or events. You should first look at a few published sources that may provide background information. If you have questions, contact the University Archives to discuss your topic.
- Identify what fonds / collection(s) you wish to view and which item(s) you wish to see within the records. Each fonds / collection guide (also called a finding aid) contains an inventory that lists what materials are in the records. We can pull a limited number of boxes of material (from one group of records or different fonds / collections) and place them on reserve for a researcher. As the researcher works through boxes of records other boxes can be pulled and held on reserve.
- Contact University Archives. Be sure to email at least 48 hours (2 business days) before you plan to visit with the fonds / collection number and item numbers you wish to see. The materials will be placed on reserve for you to look at in the Archives Research Room on the third floor of the Ralph Pickard Bell Library.
- Visit the Archives in the Ralph Pickard Bell Library and be prepared to show identification, fill out some paperwork, and store your personal belongings. While archivists want you to be able to see unique records, we also need to make sure it survives for future generations to experience. We follow these procedures with everyone who wishes to use our materials. Feel free to bring your laptop, books, and paper into the Research Room. We recommend that you bring a digital camera with you in case you see material you would like to reproduce - but be sure to ask permission before taking any photographs.
- Use your head, write with lead. Bring some pencils with you to the archives because pens are not allowed. When you are using the materials, please do so with care. Pay attention to what you are doing and how you are doing it. If you have any doubts at all about how to handle something, ask. We are always happy to help. Remember, most of these items are one-of-a-kind. If something is ruined, there are often no other copies.
- Spread the word! After your primary source experience, be sure to tell others about it. The best way to ensure that these exciting, interesting materials stay accessible for years to come is to continue having engaged patrons like you. How do we do that? With your help – word of mouth!